This just a week after a Tory former DWP minister said there was "something is seriously wrong with the system".
Controversial disability benefit assessments are breeding “a pervasive culture of mistrust” amongst disabled claimants, a commons committee has warned the government.
A lack of trust amongst those undergoing disability assessments is “undermining the entire operation”, the Work and Pensions Select Committee warned after having received an “unprecedented” amount of responses from sick and disabled benefit claimants to their inquiry.
Many respondents accused their benefit assessors – employed by private companies – of not believing what they said and even lying in reports sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The whole process, the committee said, was “opaque and unfriendly”.
Things are so bad that the committee recommended individual assessments be recorded to go “toward increasing transparency and restoring trust”. The committee’s chairman Frank Field MP warned:
“A pervasive culture of mistrust [exists] around Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) processes, with concern about the face-to-face assessment by a health professional at its core.”
“No one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.”
Field concluded that the privately run assessment system is in such a state that it should be brought back in-house by the government:
“The current contracts have not made the system fairer, have not made it more transparent and have not made it more efficient. They are up for review, and market interest appears limp.
“The existing contractors have consistently failed to meet basic performance standards but other companies are hardly scrambling over each other to take over. The Government should be prepared to take assessments in house.”
The committee’s comments come just a week after it was revealed the government spent more than £100m contesting appeals from those denied disability benefit.
And even a former Tory DWP minister spoke out, calling figure “staggering” and adding it “clearly indicates that something is seriously wrong with the system”.
This comes at a time when the number of negative assessment decisions that have been overturned have reached a record high – with around 66% of appeal cases ruling in favour of the claimant.
Tory Peer, and former DWP Pensions Minister, Ros Altmann said:
“Disability benefits need an overhaul and, of course, we must not let people make bogus claims, but the extent of the appeals we are seeing clearly indicates that something is seriously wrong with the system.”
When ex-Tory ministers start speaking out, you know the political ground is shifting on an issue – with criticism growing on all sides, the government might finally have to start taking the glaring issues around disability assessments more seriously.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.